Justin Morneau is out of the starting lineup for the sixth straight game this evening. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire told Phil Mackey of 1500ESPN.com that while Morneau is still getting over the flu, he also needed a cortisone shot today to relieve vertebrae inflammation in his neck.
“He had a neck issue before he even got sick, where he was having a stiff neck — something that he’s dealt with in the past, and he’s had this before,” Gardenhire said. “It was just a little shot to kind of get rid of some inflammation.”
The good news is that the neck issue has absolutely nothing to do with his previous post-concussion symptoms. Gardenhire said Morneau was “not going to play anyway” Friday because of the flu, but thinks he could be available to pinch-hit as soon as tomorrow.
“I think Morneau’s going to be back here real soon,” Gardenhire said. “(Saturday) or the next day, I think he’ll be able to play. He’s got a little better look on his face today than he had. He doesn’t feel great today, but I think he’s starting to hold down fluid, and so is Joe (Mauer), and that’s a big key when they start (being) able to eat and keep stuff in their stomach.”
The Twins have been playing with a two-man bench over the past three days — as Delmon Young is also sidelined due to the flu and a rib injury — so they can’t afford to go short-handed much longer.
Morneau was batting .208 (11-for-53) with zero homers, five doubles and three RBI before coming down with the flu.
Update (7:01 PM EDT): David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports the deal has been completed.
ESPN’s Keith Law reported on Saturday evening that a bad contract swap involving the Braves’ Hector Olivera and the Padres’ Matt Kemp was “getting close.” Olivera has been pulled off the field, per Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that only a last-second medical would kill the deal at this point, and that the Padres will be sending money to the Braves.
Kemp, 31, will have $64.5 million remaining on his contract through 2019 after this season, but the Dodgers will pay $3.5 million annually over those remaining three years, so the $64.5 million is really $54 million. The veteran has compiled a .262/.285/.489 triple-slash line with 23 home runs and 69 RBI in 431 plate appearances for the Padres this season.
Olivera, 31, will have $28.5 million remaining on his contract through 2020 after this season. The outfielder was handed an 82-game suspension, beginning on May 26, for his involvement in a domestic dispute on April 13. The suspension is up on August 2. He has a .501 OPS in 21 major league at-bats this season and a .278 OPS in 37 PA at Triple-A.
Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the Padres will consider designating Olivera for assignment. The trade is all about the salary dump for the Padres, as they’d rather give outfield playing time to prospects Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot.
The Athletics and Royals swapped outfielders on Saturday. The Athletics sent Billy Burns to Kansas City and the Royals sent Brett Eibner to Oakland.
Burns, 26, doesn’t provide much in the way of offense, but he runs the bases well and plays solid defense. He was hitting .234/.270/.303 with 11 doubles, four triples, and 14 stolen bases in 274 plate appearances.
Eibner, 27, was batting .231/.286/.423 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 85 plate appearances. He has spent most of the season with Triple-A Omaha, where he’s put up a .902 OPS in 219 PA. Eibner played the outfield corners in the majors, but racked up a ton of time playing center in the minors, so his versatility will be valuable to the A’s.
Burns will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2017 season while Eibner has hardly accrued any service time, which might explain part of the motivation behind the trade for the small-market Athletics.